NEW YORK (Mar. 9)
A 77-year-old Iranian Jew who had been imprisoned on charges of “associating with Zionism,” was executed in Teheran late last month.
Different reports have different dates for the execution, with some saying it took place on Feb. 24, others on Feb. 25.
It was unclear whether the execution was an act of vengeance for the killings of at least 29 Arabs in a Hebron mosque on the 25th. There was some indication that the killing of Feysollah Mechubad, a former synagogue shamash, or sexton, had been ordered days in advance.
A U.S. State Department official, who confirmed reports of the death said that “some reports from the emigre community have the execution taking place the night before the Hebron killings, others after.
“While we don’t rule out any connection (to the Hebron murders), we don’t necessarily know of one with certainty,” the official said.
The United States cannot protest the killing to Iran, since it has no diplomatic ties with that country.
But, in a statement, the State Department did say that the act appeared to be “motivated by anti-Semitism.” The statement said the United States considers this “a deplorable act of brutality which the entire world should condemn.”
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, which received reports on the execution, also reported that it had heard of “one confirmed arrest of a member of the Jewish community since the Hebron tragedy.”
Because Jews still remain in Iran, NJCRAC said, “We must be very careful about any actions affecting a xenophobic country like Iran.”
Mechubad was arrested on May 29, 1992, on his way to synagogue, according to a report by the World Jewish Congress.
CHARGED WITH ‘ASSOCIATING WITH ZIONISM’
“He was thrown into Evin Prison, which is the central prison in Teheran, without any official or justified cause,” the report said. He was charged with “associating with Zionism.”
According to the report, Mechubad’s arrest and imprisonment were justified by claiming he had maintained ties with Israel.
“This was the only charge they had against an elderly Jew,” the report said.
“All that Mechubad had done, however, was to try and maintain contact with his family,” some of whom live in Israel, the report said.
Mechubad was a dignitary of the remaining Jewish community in Iran, which is estimated as numbering between 15,000 to 25,000.
There were 80,000 Jews in Iran before the shah was deposed and a Muslim state was established there in the late 1970s.
The WJC protested the killing before the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Wednesday. The U.N. panel adopted a resolution Wednesday which for the first time condemned anti-Semitism.
At a news conference following that session, Morris Abram, a former U.N. official and past president of American Jewish groups, protested “this barbaric act” and asked that the U.N. Human Rights Commission “investigate this shocking development.”
The execution of Mechubad is the first known summary killing of a Jew in Iran since the late 1970s, after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned in triumph to that country and established a strict Islamic state.
Jews were executed as spies at that time, but “we don’t know of an execution of any Jews in Iran since the beginning of the Khomeini revolution,” said Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director.
Mechubad was also reportedly tortured and his body ravaged after his killing. According to the WJC, Mechubad’s eyes were gouged out and his face and body bore signs that he had been tortured during his imprisonment.
According to the report, “Information that has leaked out of Evin Prison suggests that when Mechubad denied the false accusations against him, he was subjected to extensive physical and mental torture,” and denied most visits, “save for sporadic visits of no more than 20 minutes long that were allowed once every few months.”
FAMILY ASKED TO RETRIEVE THE BODY
The report said Mechubad’s family was asked to retrieve his body on Feb. 26 from a Muslim cemetery.
There, it was reported, “with the help of an undertaker, they found the mound of earth beneath which Mechubad had been buried. With the undertaker’s help, they dug into the grave in order to retrieve Mechubad’s body and rebury it in a Jewish cemetery.”
The WJC report also said Mechubad had three surgical operations while in prison, including a kidney operation and “two other operations whose nature is not clear but which required prolonged hospitalization.
“In all three cases, the treatment that Mechubad was given was inadequate, and he was returned to prison before even that treatment had been completed,” the report said.
NJCRAC placed a conference call to member agencies to urge them to make contact with countries that might influence Iran.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the group has contacted the French and German governments, “as these countries are in the process of restructuring the Iranian debt.” Said Hoenlein, “Our concern is not only for this case but that it not be repeated with others.”
Hoenlein said there has been a pattern of killings of non-Muslims in Iran.
The Iranian-American Jewish Federation and the Los Angeles Jewish Community Relations Council has planned a memorial service for Mechubad on March 13 in Los Angeles.